SIP Study Visit a Resounding Success

The 23rd of March to the 2nd of April saw 10 young people from the Czech Republic and 10 from Romania take part in a study visit in Edinburgh as part of the Social Innovators Programme (SIP) financed by Erasmus+ and implemented by EDInet and two other European partners.

It was an initiative for social innovation and for social entrepreneurship education; a 9 day visit as a next level of learning for 20 young aspiring entrepreneurs who had already taken part in relevant training and workshops in their countries.

For us at EDInet, as organisers, it’s been tremendously rewarding to see the interest and hunger for new learning from the project participants. We have also been touched by the amazing response and support we have had from local organisations when we asked them to meet with our project participants for a short ‘mentoring’ session. Each young person was matched with a relevant not-for-profit organisation in Edinburgh according to the idea that they wanted to grow back at home. It gave them a chance to learn the realities of setting up their ideas, the road they would walk to success, showing clearly the good, the bad and the ugly but ultimately ending in that true goal of achieving sustainability and making a huge contribution to a local community.

Day one was as one would expect – getting to know each other. Day two was a day for history and culture in Edinburgh. In fact, that first weekend was about mingling together, getting accustomed and combining fun with learning. It all ended with a treasure hunt on the Sunday; a perfect way to get to know the Edinburgh Old Town and to bond the groups. We had a great time!

On Monday the serious stuff began: in-house workshops on moving beyond ideation to expand the knowledge accumulated thus far and to further encourage team working.

Tuesday was about meeting with social entrepreneurs and social innovators and listening to their stories of how they achieve their social purposes:

  • Richard Thomson at Recruit with Conviction – a social enterprise which promotes safe, suitable and sustainable employment for people with convictions;
  • Lucie Kelleher at FreshSight – a social enterprise consultancy run by students from the University of Edinburgh; and
  • Mike Ellis at Tap Into IT – a social enterprise that promotes social inclusion and helps older people to get online.
  • 5 other social innovators across different sectors and different beneficiary groups

Wednesday to Friday, each project participant had a meeting with a local not-for-profit organisation that works in their area of interest to learn best practices and insights from them:

  • Garvald Edinburgh – Scottish charity offering creative opportunities and support for people with learning disabilities focusing mainly around craft, catering and artistic skills.
  • Edinburgh Community Yoga – offers professional yoga classes. They have a particular interest in reaching people living with long term physical conditions as well as mental health or addiction issues. As well as working alongside therapeutic organisations such as SAMH and LEAP they also offer discounts for vulnerable adults.
  • Bridgend Growing Communities – their aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of people living in Edinburgh through providing opportunities to participate in community growing activities.
  • MY Adventure – MY Adventure is a customer focused and ethically minded social enterprise. They deliver high quality outdoor and experiential education, personal and social development, environmental education, adventurous activities, skills acquisition programmes and vocational qualifications.
  • Waverly Care – Waverley Care is Scotland’s HIV and Hepatitis C Charity.
  • HIV Scotland – HIV Scotland is the national HIV policy organisation for Scotland.
  • Ginerosity – the world’s first social enterprise gin. Pickering’s Gin founders Marcus Pickering and Matt Gammell have teamed up with social enterprise experts to produce the Ginerosity spirit, the profits of which will be poured into good causes.
  • Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust – Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust was set up by local residents to help the Old Town develop in a way that meets the needs of the people who live in it. EOTDT is a registered charity committed to the revitalisation of the Old Town through stimulating growth in community participation, the arts and enterprise.
  • Campaign Collective – Campaign Collective is a social enterprise helping charities, social enterprises, public service organisations and other campaigners benefit from affordable professional communications advice and support.
  • Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel (SYHA Hostelling Scotland) – Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel is located in the heart of Scotland’s capital, offering 5 star budget accommodation with 270 beds. SYHA Hostelling Scotland is a self-funding charity operating a network of over 60 exceptional youth and affiliate hostels.
  • Hadeel – Hadeel is a Fair Trade shop which aims to provide a sustainable source of income for craftspeople working with social enterprises in the West Bank, Gaza, as well as one in the Galilee and another in the Negev. Their work also helps to sustain infrastructures, as many of the producer groups also provide health, education and emergency services in their communities which lack any form of local government which might do this.
  • Love to Ride – Love to Ride is an online platform using behaviour change to get more people riding.
  • The Welcoming Association – The Welcoming Association brings together refugees, asylum seekers and people from Scottish and local minority ethnic communities. The aim is to welcome newcomers, learn together and improve English language and literacy skills.
  • Making It Work – Making It Work is a project of Capital City Partnership which supports single parents with children under the age of 5 to overcome barriers in order to progress into education or employment.
  • Grassmarket Community Project– The Grassmarket Community Project supports people through transitions in their lives and re-connects the disengaged. They run four social enterprises through the project: their successful wood workshop GrOW, creating bespoke pieces of furniture from recycled wood; a purpose-designed conference and event space; a cafe and catering service and the manufacture of tartan items including their very own “greyfriars” tartan.

After their mentoring meetings, the SIP participants followed a prepared map of social enterprises in the areas of Leith and Edinburgh City Centre to discover how their business model works. Again, we were humbled with how amazing these organisations were for our participants. No prior warning of being visited by such curious young people was given, but they were happy to offer advice and answer questions while letting themselves be photographed. As photos speak a thousand words, we invite you to check out our EDInet Facebook page to see for yourself.

Project participants were also encouraged to do daily homework in pairs for the duration of the study visit, writing down what they learnt, details of who they’ve met and record any self-reflections and ideas. One Romanian would be paired with one Czech participant to encourage intercultural learning. Writing here everything they said at the end of each day would take too much space, but let’s just say that they were very excited about the things they experienced.

The intercultural learning was also achieved during the Intercultural Evening organised by the project partners, where each participant brought something specific to their own country: food, drink, sweets, etc – even t-shirts!!. Everyone had a lot of fun tasting and chatting.

All said and done, the SIP study visit to Edinburgh was a resounding success and we look forward to seeing the fruits of their work!